Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.
1) Devin Booker is back, but coach Jay Triano’s rulebook knowledge gets Suns dramatic win. There is no goaltending on an inbounds pass. Offensive or defensive. How can there be, it’s not a shot — you can’t score on it (even if it goes through the basket). So if the ball is over the cylinder of the basket on an inbounds pass, you can grab it.
Did you know that? Grizzlies coach J.B. Bickerstaff clearly didn’t (watch his reaction to the play below). However, Suns coach Jay Triano did, so with 0.6 seconds left he drew up a play that called for a lob and veteran Tyson Chandler finished the alley-oop as the ball was over the rim, giving the Suns a 99-97 win over Memphis.
That was a great pass by Dragan Bender to make that alley-oop possible. Memphis put Marc Gasol on Bender at the inbounds, which left the not-as-strong Brandan Wright to try to defend Chandler around the basket, and while Wright is more athletic than Gasol he did not have the strength to move Chandler out of the one position he needed to be in to finish the play and the game.
That play is not why the Grizzlies lost. Memphis missed its last 11 shots from the field and went almost six minutes without a bucket in the fourth quarter, that is what cost them the game.
That and Devin Booker. The Suns’ guard was back after missing nine games due to a left adductor strain and he didn’t miss a beat, scoring 20 points in the first half and 32 for the game (he had fouled out before that final play, or maybe it is run for him, you can do a catch-and-shoot in .6 seconds by the NBA rulebook). The Suns are a lot more fun to watch with Booker on the court.
2) Worst in the West beats best in the East? Dallas upsets Toronto. For a day, the Toronto Raptors were on top of the East. Toronto had won six straight and 12-of-13, while the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers both lost on Christmas Day. That left Toronto as the team on top of the East with a .742 winning percentage.
Then they traveled to 9-25 Dallas.
Maybe the Raptors were looking ahead to a showdown with the Thunder Wednesday night, but they were flat and ran into a Mavericks team that isn’t winning a lot but has been feisty and in games lately. The Mavs don’t get blown out. Dallas hung around this one despite Kyle Lowry looking like he would just take over for a stretch (but he missed crucial shots down the stretch). When DeMar DeRozan tried to take over late, he just looked flat (like Toronto did all night).
Dallas got 20 points out of J.J. Barea off the bench, and Dirk Nowitzki had 18 because that’s what he does, to lead the Mavericks. Dallas is going to end up with a high draft pick, but they are not tanking and just throwing in the towel on the season, they are playing gritty basketball.
First up is Denver’s Nikola Jokic. He was running down the court when Utah’s Jonas Jerebko bumped him. That happens just about every play. However, Jokic decides to respond with an NFL-style swim move to get around Jerebko, and in the process elbows the Jazz big man in the face.
For a couple of seasons now NBA officials have cracked down on any blows to the head. Intentional or not, they are not allowed and lead to an instant ejection. Jokic earned this one.
However, that was not the most idiotic move leading to an ejection of the night.
There were 22 seconds left in the game and the Bulls were up by 9 and about to upset the Bucks. Milwaukee would take a last shot, Chicago would then dribble it out. But as the Bucks came down Khris Middleton elbows Kris Dunn a little trying to seal him and get position, Dunn then grabbed Middleton’s jersey, so Middleton threw another elbow at Dunn, then Dunn tackled him. Did we mention there were now 16.9 seconds left in a decided game?
Maybe they were arguing over the proper way to spell their first name, in which case Chris Paul should have gotten into it and ejected too, even though he wasn’t even playing in this game or on either of these teams. There will be fines for this, which is going to sting when it’s time to write the check because this was the definition of unnecessary.